During the past few months, a number of people who have expressed an interest in my crop circle research have asked a selection of questions. Rather than keep repeating my answers, I thought it was time to put together a 'Frequently Asked Questions' (FAQ) list, which will hopefully help to answer some of the most popular questions.
To this end, I have written the following article as an extensive question and answer type interview. The questions have been posed by a variety of people over the years, and I hope will answer some of the questions you may have about the subject.
Q: Do you have a definite opinion as to the source of the crop circle phenomenon?
A: No. I try to keep an open mind as to the origin and cause of the crop circles. Obviously some are hoaxes, but we are trying to distinguish between the hoaxed formations and those which may possibly be genuine. Whatever that may turn out to be.
Q: So you don't necessarily think they are made by little green men landing in their spaceships.
A: No. Not at all. Although there have been many UFO sightings in the vicinity of crop circles, I have yet to find any solid evidence linking one with the other. However, I think the crop circles could be caused by some, yet undiscovered, energy field which may be a bi-product of UFO propulsion systems. This is just my 'gut' feeling though and although I have detected various anomalous RF effects in and around crop circles, I'm yet to be convinced there is a link.
Q: Tell us more about these anomalous effects you have found.
A: I first discovered there was something strange going on in the vicinity of crop circles in 1991 when I discovered that a mobile phone refused to work inside a formation, yet worked perfectly just inches outside the formation and throughout the rest of the field. I have since built more sensitive detectors which in a few, not all, formations, have given strange readings of radio interference. I have also been given reports from numerous people, of batteries being inexplicably drained, cameras malfunctioning and electronic equipment going wrong. Some may be due to operator error, but I'm convinced that there may be some kind of residual electro-magnetic field being left in the location of crop circles.
Q: Have these anomalous effects been replicated at all?
A: Well, I take my equipment to most crop formations that I visit, and I try to visit all formations as soon as they are first reported. In some formations that I have obtained positive readings (ie. giving radio interference), the level is usually of the same magnitude. I always get the same 'normal' readings outside the formations, so whatever is causing the anomalous readings is obviously localised to particular formations.
Q: Are these readings constant, or do they change with time?
A:I have found, through repeated visits to crop circle sites, that the readings I obtain gradually diminish until they return to their normal readings, ie the same as outside the formation. This usually occurs over a period of four to six weeks.
Q: If you don't get anomalous readings inside a crop circle, is that an indication that it is a hoaxed circle?
A: Not necessarily. I'm not really out to categorically state whether particular formations are hoaxed or genuine. I'm merely testing every formation I get the chance to visit, and report on any findings I detect. People can then come to their own conclusions, or do their own repeat experiments to decide for themselves what created the crop circle.
Q: Don't you find that hoaxes muddy the waters of research?
A: Yes, that is true. Unfortunately, the hoaxers are not scientists and are probably unaware of a lot of the research that is going on. They see it as a prank to try and damage the research efforts of many people. I just wish they would get fed up, as it is wasting the time and money of many people. If there weren't so many hoaxed circles around, researchers wouldn't have to do so much travelling around. Unfortunately, human nature breeds people who don't like a threat to established science.
Q: What is the best evidence against hoaxing?
A: The best evidence is probably that of biological effects to the crop itself. There have been cases of genetic mutation within the cells in the crop stems. One of the foremost researchers looking into the biological effects is Dr. Levengood of Pinelandia Laboratories.
Other research which has proved interesting is that seeds taken from inside a formation, when re-planted under control conditions seem to grow at a faster rate and produce taller and more healthy plants. This aspect of the research is easy to verify. You can simply go and take some samples yourself and plant them in your back garden.
There is then the physical evidence examined in the formation itself, like lack of footprints and damage - even when crop formations have appeared on rainy nights when mud is prevalent.
Q: Sceptics have said that they can produce bent stalks and that this depends on the weather conditions when they make the circle.
A: That is true. If you make the circle when the crop is young enough and there is a damp dew on the ground, stems do appear to bend without snapping. This is because the stems are more supple and can bend easier. However, I visited a formation in 1994 which was in ripe oil seed rape which is rather like celery, with stems up to an inch thick. I found many stems bent through 120° without the slightest snapping or splitting. I believe this would be impossible to hoax because ripe oil seed rape snaps if you try to bend it more than about 20-30°.
However, you do need to visit a formation as soon as possible after creation, especially when the crop is young, as phototropism (the effect of bending to follow the sunlight) will start to take effect in crops that are lying down, resulting in a bending upwards towards the sunlight.
Q: Does the crop continue to grow after it has been flattened into a crop circle?
A: Again, this depends when the crop circle is made. If the crop is young and green it will continue to grow as normal, trying to grow back up towards the light. However, later in the season when the crop is ripe and golden it is often dead and will just lie flat on the ground.
Q: Have abnormal radiation readings ever been detected in a crop circle?
A: Yes. I was lucky enough to be present when Michael Hesemann, the German film producer and UFO researcher, was performing some radiation readings in 1993. We were surveying the Cherhill formation in Wiltshire, less than four hours after it formed. (A local person walking their dog at 2am and reported it not being there then). We obtained 'normal background' readings of around 8-12 micro ceverts in the field and around the crop circle. However, when we entered the circle, these readings went up to around 34 micro-ceverts - an increase of some 300% This was enough to cause the local police, who soon arrived on the scene, to later perform their own testing on it. However, their results remained confidential.
We have since detected high radiation readings in only a couple of circles, so I don't really think there is enough evidence to suggest that high radiation is a result of the circles themselves.
Q: What is the best evidence supporting the hoax hypothesis?
A: That we're no closer to solving the mystery after nearly twenty years of research! No, seriously, it would be silly to dismiss the hoaxers claims altogether, but I'm sure that hoaxing is not as widespread as the hoaxers would like us to believe. After all, no hoaxers have yet been caught - despite numerous night-watches by people armed with image intensifiers and other equipment.
However, there is evidence of hoaxing as I have been in formations where muddy footprints and broken stems have been present, even hours after formation.
Also following Occam's razor analogy - where assumptions introduced to explain something must not be unnecessarily multiplied, hoaxing is the simplest explanation offered so far. There again, who says there is a simple solution. The theory of gravity is hardly simple, yet people take it for granted.
I think the hoax hypothesis is an easy option for people to take if they don't want to question their world view about things and do their own research.
Q: Can the hoaxers claims be refuted, and how?
A: Well, the biggest thing about hoaxers is that they seem to turn up the day after a formation arrives and deliberately 'act suspicious'. The psychology aspect makes researchers wonder if they had anything to do with the circles, even if they were miles away the previous night. After all, it's far easier to arrive on the scene and pretend to know something you don't than it is to actually creep into the field in the darkness and produce geometrically accurate formations.
Some claims can be refuted as different groups of hoaxers have inadvertently claimed the same formation in the past. This makes me laugh slightly because they obviously haven't got a clue what other people are up to.
Even when hoaxers 'own up' to circles, they have no evidence to support their claims. I could claim that I invented the Loch Ness monster. So what? I think they need to provide proof of their creations as openly as researchers supply research. Unfortunately, hoaxers are out simply to deceive, so you're not going to get an honest answer from them.
Q: Was Doug and Dave's admission, in 1991, an honest one, or do you think there are holes in their story?
A: I personally have a problem with D&D's story, mainly because it doesn't seem to be consistent. Firstly they claimed that they started it in 1978, then modified it to the mid 1970's when researchers showed photographs of pre 1978 circles (see fig.1)
I also once asked Doug if they had made any formations in Wiltshire (the main location of a lot of the early circles) and he categorically stated that they hadn't. It was later claimed that they had. Either they did or they didn't?? Also, D&D were never able to produce a high quality formation in front of independent witnesses' to convince researchers of their skills.
I also find it amazing, and amusing, that Doug's wife suspected nothing for nearly twelve years of nocturnal exploits.
They also couldn't account for some of the more elaborate swirl patterns in circles. As circles researcher Colin Andrews once said, "If you ask the wrong questions, you get the wrong answers." He once asked them how they made a sinusoidal weave in one formation they had previously claimed. When they had the exact details pointed out to them they simply stated, after a pause, "We didn't do that one."
Q: Carl Sagan suggests in his article (Parade magazine, Dec 1995 issue) that the phenomenon exists because it is a money maker. How big a financial industry do you think it is?
A: Unfortunately, some researchers have let money get in the way of serious research. In fact I'm sure (without mentioning any names) that some researchers are deliberately keeping people in the dark and spreading false research, so that they can keep producing merchandise and gain an income. This is, in my view, totally wrong and creates a worse situation than the actual hoaxers themselves.
Personally, I operate my crop circle research as an interest only. In fact, at the end of each season I am usually out of pocket. Petrol costs are the most, travelling to different formations. I don't sell books or videos and Enigma just about covers it's costs - what small profit there is, goes towards gaining better equipment for research.
I believe researchers should be more open and honest with each other, and those who are only in it for the money deserve to be rooted out and exposed.
Q: Are there any hoaxers who are benefiting from the phenomena?
A: Not as far as I know - although Doug did speak at a hall in Marlborough, charging £5.00 a head to hear him tell his story. The hall was packed out so I don't know how much money he made.
Q: Have any farmers taken advantage of private access to their fields by designing a crop circle and then charging a few pounds to see it?
A: There have been a few rumours to that effect, and I am busy following up some enquiries at the moment. However, I don't think this is a viable source of income. By the time the farmer has paid someone to make the formation and for someone to sit by the entrance to the field and collect money, there is not going to be much profit. To be honest,. I think farmers have got better ways to spend their time and money.
Q: The crop circle phenomenon is presented to the rest of the world by what seems to be just a handful of crop circle "experts." What do the ordinary local people of southern England believe? Those who are not involved in documenting the phenomenon, those who just happen to live there?
A: A lot of people just seem to accept it. I have spoken to some people who claim to have seen crop circles since they were young children in the 1950's and thought nothing of it.
Some of the local people in Wiltshire have their own amazing stories of UFO sightings and strange events, whereas others merely dismiss it as a hoax.
I think more people take notice of the media though and don't like to express opinions that may be outside the 'average' way of thinking. More people dismiss the subject as a hoax since D&D's admission.
Q: Do you see any connection between crop circles and other circular designs of southern England, such as Stonehenge and Silbury Hill? Why is southern England, home of the largest collection of man-made monoliths in the world, also the home of the crop circle phenomenon?
A: I think that is a difficult question to answer simply - perhaps it's an idea for a future Enigma article - mainly because the Southern counties of England are steeped in legend and antiquity. Could Neolithic people have witnessed crop circles and, seeing them as a message from the Gods, build temples and monuments to preserve them through the ages? It's a possibility. People have even said that perhaps it is the spirits of these distant departed souls sending a message to the people of today, perhaps to warn of the damage we are doing to the Earth. Personally I don't go along with these theories, but you never know....
Q: What designs have especially impressed you as being genuine, and why?
A: I personally, liked the Barbury Castle formation of 1991 as it contained such detailed geometric precision. It translated to a three dimensional tetrahedron with amazing accuracy. Also, in the subsequent years, no hoaxer has yet come forward to 'claim' it.
I also quite liked the Mandlebrot formation which appeared in Cambridgeshire. I have no idea whether it was hoaxed or not, as unfortunately, I didn't get a change to actually visit it. However, assuming it's not hoaxed, it is virtually conclusive proof of some kind of intelligence being behind such a 'human' shape.
Q: Are there any convincing hoaxes?
A: Well, the Mandlebrot formation for a start - if it is a hoax? The only reason I'm sceptical about this one is that it is so obviously a human mathematical shape that it cannot have formed by a non-intelligent entity.
Q: Have crop circles appeared in other countries and is this evidence against hoaxing?
A: Yes. In fact crop circles have appeared all around the world; America, Canada, France, India, Japan, Afghanistan, Germany and Sweden to name just a few. In Japan a circle appeared in a rice paddy field and the following morning thousands of gallons of water had also vanished - equal to the volume of the crop circle. Snow circles have even been photographed in the mountains of Afghanistan, with no footsteps leading to them. You can't tell me that hoaxers are driving around in water tankers or lowering themselves out of helicopters. These aren't simple circles either. The snow circles in Afghanistan were arranged in a quintuplet, similar to some of the 'Celtic cross' designs seen in Southern England.
Q: Do you have any comments on any of the eye-witness reports of crop circles forming?
A: There have been a couple of eye-witness reports, but I remain fairly sceptical of these. They both describe a sort of atmospheric vortex type whirl-wind sweeping around the crop in a matter of seconds. Although, on further investigation, I'm not sure if we're not just seeing a localised wind here, as I've yet to see a report which resulted in a circle as we know it - with 'pastry cutter' type edges.
Until I see more evidence I shall keep an open mind on these claims.
Q: Do you think any scientific evidence is being suppressed, or ignored by the mainstream media?
A: Unless there really is a 'New World Order' style coverup at a high level, I think the media are just ignorant of the facts. If they perceive the public seeing the subject as a hoax, they won't sell papers unless they have dramatic new evidence - something we are working towards rectifying through hard work and research.
Q: Is there any evidence to suggest that the military are taking an interest in the crop circles?
A: I have spoken to a few military people about crop circles, and again unless there is a very well orchestrated cover-up campaign, I think they are just as mystified of the circles as the rest of us. They occasionally venture out into the fields to carry out their own research, but on occasions when I have spoken to them, they just seem honestly curious.
Q: Do any of the various crop circle organisations, such as IRCUP or the CCCS have a definite opinion as to the origin of the phenomenon?
A: I do not think that the crop circle organisations have a global opinion, but merely share the combined views of their members - which can be pretty varied.
Q: Do you have any numerical data on the number of crop formations that have appeared?
A: In the early years no one really counted the circles and, as there was no media coverage to spread interest, many went undiscovered. However since 1989 there have usually been in excess of 200 formations in the UK each year. The 'golden years' seemed to be 1990 and 1991 when there were between 300 and 400 formations.
There is usually some discrepancy in the numbers published because some people count individual parts of a formation (for example a quintuplet may be counted as five circles), whereas others count whole formations as a single event. I always count a whole formation as one event. Last year in 1995 there was over 200 formations, despite disinterest in the media. In 1992 there were around 200 formations, dropping slightly in 1993 until only around 150 formations appeared in 1994.
Q: How long are you going to continue investigating the subject?
A: I'm not going to stop until I'm satisfied that the hoaxers have given up (which probably means I'll be studying it for some time) or that we have some concrete evidence with which to finally shut-up the closed-minded debunkers and the sceptics.
Q: How will you know when (and if) the hoaxers have given up?
A: That's an interesting question and one that is impossible to answer without looking at the psychology of the hoaxers involved. One aspect is that a lot of the hoaxers claim to give-up and state that copy-cat hoaxers are merely carrying on where they left off.
However, an interesting facet of research starts to appear here, in that there are subtle similarities between formations from year to year, so unless one group of hoaxers is 'teaching' the next group, or new groups are constantly studying previous years research, I'm not quite sure how the hoaxing knowledge and complex geometries manage to continue from year to year.